As a teen growing up in a smallÂ town in western Pennsylvania, â€œDrivers Edâ€ was a fact of life and taught duringÂ the summers at my High School.Â Of myÂ many memories of â€œsummer drivers school,â€ none are as fresh and stark as someÂ of those famous films created to scare the pants off of young drivers.Â A few classics are up on â€œYouTube,â€ youÂ should checkout â€œThe Last Dateâ€ or â€œHighways of Agony,â€ â€¦â€¦ Classics!!Â http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rzr7CHX_0b0
One of the challenges of taking â€œDrivers Edâ€ during theÂ summer was trying to learn to drive safely in icy and snowy winter conditions.Â One of the lessons from those summer drivingÂ classes was the teacherâ€™s repeated message to â€œsteer into the skidâ€ if the carÂ lost traction on an icy road.Â It seemedÂ so counter intuitive to actually steer into the direction where you wereÂ skidding, it felt like steering into the path of trouble!Â While hard to understand, the first time IÂ hit an icy patch as a young driver and did the opposite, steering away from theÂ skid, I sent the car into a 360-degree spin and ended in the ditch.Â No one was hurt, and the front fender of ourÂ 1970 Chevelle dented a bit, but a lesson was learned.Â In future moments on icy streets when IÂ started to skid, I remembered the lesson and gently â€œsteered into the skidâ€Â and in most moments avoided any issues/ditches!!
As I was recently recounting this lesson with my new drivingÂ son (not many icy patches here in Atlanta but a good driving lesson anyway,)Â the story and memory got me thinkingâ€¦. This idea of â€œsteering into the skidâ€ isÂ not merely a lesson for a young driver; it is actually a powerful lesson forÂ life!!Â As we come upon the â€œicy patchesâ€Â in our business worlds or personal lives, we need to be reminded to of thisÂ lesson and â€œsteerâ€ into not away from the challenges/obstacles/problems we areÂ facing!
Business World:Â In business we often focus on our moments ofÂ success, looking for ways to replicate them across broaderÂ markets/verticals/brands/products/teams.Â Â We typically â€œsteer awayâ€ from situations that are not going well,Â wanting to spend our energy (and our our teamâ€™s capacity/capabilities) onÂ trying to replicate whatâ€™s working rather than deeply understanding the areasÂ that are not going well.Â We almost haveÂ a sense that if we just get better on the â€œgood stuffâ€, the â€œbad stuffâ€ willÂ just â€œgo awayâ€ or be lost in a haze of broader success.Â Dangerous ideas and deeply untrue!
Rather than avoiding the weak spots of our business, we needÂ to â€œsteer into the skidsâ€ of our business.Â Â What markets/verticals/brands/products/teams are doing the worst?Â Which competitors are doing the best to takeÂ our market share?Â Where are we mostÂ vulnerable in the next few months (operating plan horizon) and across aÂ multi-year landscape (strategic plan horizon)?
I am certainly not suggesting that we ignore the â€œgood stuffâ€ in our businesses; we do need to replicate our successes all the time.Â What I am specifically focusing on is to addÂ intensity, clarity and focus on the weak spots if the business, proactivelyÂ â€œsteering into the skidâ€ across the landscape of the business model as a methodÂ to avoid fatal professional â€œcrashes.â€
Personal Lives:Â In our personal lives this same adage alsoÂ rings true.Â In a life that is hectic,Â time stretched, and often stressful, it is tempting to take any available â€œopenÂ timeâ€ to take a breath and relax.Â WhileÂ I certainly an advocate of this idea on many fronts, I have come to realizeÂ that the issues/concerns/problems or â€œskidsâ€ in our personal lives rarely â€œgetÂ betterâ€ on their own.Â Think about aÂ marriage, a friendship, and a parent-child relationship that has friction orÂ concerns.Â Letting them â€œsimmer,â€ waitingÂ to â€œdeal with themâ€ at some amorphous time in the future is never a goodÂ idea.Â This idea applies to our physicalÂ lives as well.Â If we are dealing with aÂ chronic health issue, dive into the problem, don’t put it off!Â
I have a dear friend who recently underwentÂ emergency cardiac bypass surgery after failing a â€œrun of the millâ€ stressÂ test.Â The good news is that he isÂ recovering well.Â The scary part is thatÂ he had postponed three previous stress test appointments and was on the vergeÂ of delaying the test appointment that he dramatically failed; that fourth delayÂ could have resulted in his early death, rather than a successful operation andÂ progressing recovery.Â It took him aÂ while but he ultimately did â€œsteer into the skidâ€ and he is back safely on theÂ road of life.
Whether in your personal or professional lives, think aboutÂ those old â€œDrivers Edâ€ movies and remind yourself to find more opportunities toÂ â€œsteer into the skid.â€Â There is no wayÂ to live a life absent of challenges/obstacles/problems or issues.Â Don’t spend anytime â€œwishing awayâ€ yourÂ problems; instead take a few extra moments (both personally and professionally)Â and dive into the problem areas, â€œsteer into the skids,â€ and take action (donâ€™tÂ postpone your stress test appointment) in order to have a smoother and safer â€œrideâ€Â ahead!